Partisan sniping at the statehouse today led senators to air their grievances on a wide range of issues, from Senator Grassley’s assertion that President Obama made “stupid” comments about the Supreme Court to state government regulations.
Senator Bill Dotzler, a Democrat from Waterloo, kicked things off by suggesting the state needs to hire back laid-off job counselors who advise unemployed Iowans to go back to school and learn new skills.
“We are failing Iowa’s underskilled workforce and it’s time we stood together and fought for these individuals,” Dotzler said. “…We are hampering the growth of Iowa companies because they cannot find the skilled workers they need.”
Senator Mark Chelgren, a Republican from Ottumwa who is a small business owner, responded, suggesting the problem is the “work ethic” of many jobless Iowans.
“‘Right now we give 13 years of free education — 13 years where teachers stand up and say, ‘You need to be educated,'” Chelgren said. “…You know what? Some of those kids just don’t listen and later on in life when it comes time to provide for their families or provide for themselves, they don’t have the skills because they chose not to listen after 13 years of free education telling them what you need to do.”
Senator Matt McCoy, a Democrat from Des Moines, responded with this interpretation: “I’m absolutely astounded that somebody would stand up on the floor of the Iowa Senate and say Iowans are lazy and don’t want to work…Your comments were completely absurd.”
That prompted more shouting and fingerpointing in a brief meeting in the center of the senate floor that was not broadcast over the senate’s sound system. Senator Dennis Black, a Democrat from Grinnell, later suggested it was absurd to get upset over the word absurd.
“I don’t see or hear any indignation — none! — from this body that relates to the issue of our senior senator…using the word stupid as it relates to our president,” Black said. “That truly is not only absurd, but not becoming the stature of his position.”
Senator Paul McKinley, a Republican from Chariton, was next to bat, complaining about state regulations on a woman who bought goats and started to make goat cheese.
“The process of making cheese leaves a liquid that is about 98-99 percent liquid and about one to two percent curd,” McKinley said. “Now, back in the day, what you did with that is you’d pour the liquid on the garden and feed the curd to the hogs. The DNR came along and said that’s an industrial waste.”
According to McKinley, the equipment to handle that waste cost more than the goats. That prompted this response from Senator Tom Courtney, a Democrat from Burlington: “This whole conversation’s beginning to get my goat…Regulations are here for a reason. If you don’t like them, if there’s something we shouldn’t be doing, then let’s fix that, but I’ll guarantee you one thing — if you throw out all the regulations we’ll have little kids working in coal mines like they were 100 years ago, we’ll have all kinds of people getting hurt.”
After about an hour of this, Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal was the last to speak.
“If only we had only taken care of Senator Hogg’s wind energy bill and erected some wind turbines in here this morning, we could have powered this chamber for two or three weeks.”
All the comments came during “points of personal privilege” rather than during senate consideration of actual legislation. AUDIO of last 47 minutes of the commentary.
Senators then went into separate, private meetings with their fellow partisans to plot strategy for debates later today over pending bills.